Character, Competence and Connection

"A good head and a good heart
are always a formidable combination."

- Nelson Mandela

Winning in the workplace and life requires three elements; CharacterCompetence, and Connection. With apologies to Meatloaf, two out of three is bad. High performers need all three qualities.


In the diagram above, character is the inner circle. Why? Because we must be solid on the inside first. When we live with integrity, we develop self-confidence and earn the respect of others. 

All of us are gifted in a unique way. Our responsibility is to develop and refine our gifts to serve others. In a world of carpenters, decide to be a craftsman. Do your work with skill and mastery.

Connection is the outer circle because the first thing people notice about you is your attitude and how you act toward them. This sounds really corny but people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. The most important things in life are not things. 

Are you the complete package?

Separate Yourself from the Pack

"You cannot get ahead while you are getting even."
- Lou Holtz

Years ago a manager told me about an employee who would consistently call out sick the day after his co-worker called out sick. The employee felt that if his co-worker could abuse the attendance guidelines, he could too.

I once worked in an office suite where many co-workers held long personal conversations and spent a lot of time surfing the internet. My initial thought was,"Why should I work hard when they take it easy all day?"

But obviously, that was the wrong question.

The right questions are:

  • "How can I create extreme value?"

  • "How can I do my job with excellence?"

Our goal should not be to be like everyone else. Normal is overrated! Being exceptional means you have to be an exception!

Develop an intense distaste for mediocrity. Strive for excellence with the work at hand. Doing your best at the moment puts you in the best position for tomorrow.

Excellence has its own reward.

The Power of Positive Feedback

"Feeling gratitude without expressing it
is like wrapping a gift and never giving it."

- William Ward

My daughter recently told a co-worker that she was one of the nicest people she has ever worked with. Her co-worker was overwhelmed by the simple compliment and started to cry.

Last week I had lunch with a Vice-President of Human Resources. He said for the first time in his career, he has a boss that gives him positive feedback. He feels empowered and supported.

I am reading a book by a very successful author. He said he began thinking about a writing career when one of his junior high school teachers told him he was a good writer.

In a world full of critics, complainers, and downers let's be the kind of person who is generous with sincere compliments. They take so little time and effort and make a huge impact.

"The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing."

- Proverbs 12:18

  • If your restaurant server is exceptional, look them in the eye and thank them for the good service (and leave a generous tip.)

  • If you are a leader, give those who report to you the recognition they deserve (by the way, it's your best retention tool.)

  • Tell your family members and friends specifically what you appreciate about them.

Make it your goal to give 3 sincere compliments a day.

Here is a simple life principle: you see what we are looking for. Look for the good. And when you see it, say it! 

The cool thing is when you encourage others, you will be uplifted. Life is a boomerang, what you send out comes back.

The Power of Listening

"Listening is a magnetic and strange force.
The people who listen to us are the ones we move toward."

- Karl Menninger

It is rare to find someone who gives you their focused attention. It's rare because true listening is hard work. Listening is difficult for several reasons.

First, with modern technology and devices, our attention span is getting shorter and shorter.

Second, humans speak at a rate of 125 words per minute but we can listen at a rate of 500 words per minute. That's lots of room to go on a mental vacation when someone else is talking.

Finally, we are all naturally self-centered, so listening is often simply being quiet until we get our turn to speak.

In school, we were taught several communication skills; reading, writing, and even public speaking in speech class. But we were never taught listening skills.

Here is a 4-step LISA model that will help you improve your listening.

L - Listen to understand.
(This much different than listening to respond.)

I - Inquire.
Probe deeper, ask questions.

S - Summarize.
Concisely paraphrase what you heard to ensure understanding.

A - Acknowledge.
Notice, A doesn't stand for Agree. You don't have to agree with the other person to acknowledge their opinion or perspective.

The fact is we can often have more influence with our ears than our mouth. Set yourself apart both personally and professionally by being the rare person who asks great questions and then gives the other person the gift of your focused attention.

“Listening is about being present, not just about being quiet.”
- Krista Tippett

12 Quotes for a Strong Week

Quotes say so much in just a few words. Here are 12 of my favorite...

"Confidence is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat
and taking the tartar sauce with you."

- Zig Ziglar

"He who kneels before God can stand before anyone."
- Ezra Benson

"Happiness is the full use of your powers along the lines of excellence."
- John F. Kennedy

"Every person alive is filled to the brim with value and possibilities,
with passion, with purpose.
Whenever all that abundance is focused and directed,
the result is undeniable greatness."

- Ralph Marston

"If we did all the things we are capable of doing,
we would literally astound ourselves.
- Thomas Edison

"Do not bring your need to the marketplace, bring your skill."
- Jim Rohn

"Find a tiny stream where your strengths can flow and carve it into a Mississippi."
- Marcus Buckingham

"If you deliberately plan on being less than you are capable of being,
then I warn you that you'll be unhappy for the rest of your life."

- Abraham Maslow

"Kindness is in our power even when fondness is not."
- Samuel Johnson

"Perfection is not attainable,
but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

- Vince Lombardi

"We are not here to stick our toes in the water,
we are here to make waves."

- Alan Weiss

"The world makes way for a person who knows where they are going."
- Epictetus

And a little humor...

"Sometimes I think the whole world is against me,
but deep down I know that is not true.
Some of the smaller countries are neutral."

- Steven Wright

Becoming Unoffendable

"Don't carry a grudge; while you're carrying a grudge,
the other person is out dancing."

- Buddy Hackett

It seems that many people today are hyper-sensitive. They take offense easily and quickly demand an apology.

Recently I was listening to a podcast by Rick Warren. He said, "Decide to be unoffendable." I thought that was a great idea. I tried it, and by golly, it worked!
The greatest of all freedoms we have as humans is the freedom to choose our attitude. Being offended takes up unnecessary emotion and space in our lives. It hurts us more than the other person.
Here are three simple ways to become unoffendable.
1. Don't take things personally.

I recently went into a company to provide an all-day workshop. Within 5 minutes of arrival, an employee asked: "Are you our trainer today?" I told him I was. He said, "Well, make it quick. I don't have time for this nonsense."

Why should that offend me? He didn't even know me. Clearly, there is something going on with him. All I can do is deliver the best training that I can.

2. Focus on what you can control.

When I see someone is driving like a maniac, I immediately think"Justice! He needs to be pulled over!" But why let that person throw me off my game? There is very little I can do about it as he speeds ahead.

Decide to resign yourself from being the general manager of the universe and focus on improving yourself rather than disapproving of others.

3. Decide to be the kind of person you want to be, regardless of others.

Be consistently kind and respectful. Why? Because the other person deserves it? Not necessarily, but because you are a kind and respectful person.

I am not suggesting that we should be passive. We should step into difficult situations when appropriate. I am simply saying that we shouldn't carry around bitterness and resentment. It makes life harder. 

No one can hurt you without your permission. Don't put the key to your happiness in someone else's pocket.

The Appeal of Humble Confidence

"Never believe you’re better than anybody else,
but remember that you’re just as good as anyone."

- John Wooden

Successful people are a combination of warmth and strength.

Great leaders are also a combination of warmth and strength. Jim Collins in his book Good to Great, declares that research reveals the most effective leaders have a rare combination of professional willand personal humility.

We have a natural aversion to arrogant people. Those who think they are superior to others.

We are generally not inspired or positively influenced by passive or timid people.

But we are drawn to those who carry themselves with humble confidence.

Let's briefly take a look at the behaviors of those with humble confidence.


  • Humble people don't think less of themselves, they think of themselves less.

  • Humble people have a desire to grow and improve.

  • Humble people are open to feedback.

  • Humble people talk less and listen more.

  • Humble people ask for advice.

  • Humble people focus on others, not themselves.

  • Humble people treat everyone with respect.

  • Humble people know that everyone has something to teach them.


  • Confident people are respectful but not intimidated.

  • Confident people speak clearly and with conviction.

  • Confident people aren't worried about what everyone thinks of them.

  • Confident people greet other people with a warm handshake, smile and eye contact.

  • Confident people carry themselves with poise.

  • Confident people live out their values.

  • Confident people know they are never out of their league.

  • Confident people energize and inspire others.

A superiority or inferiority complex serves no one well.
Where are you on the humble confidence scale?

"When you are big, act small.
When you are small, act big."

-Leslie Koch

Practicing Positive Discontent

"Enjoy all you have while you pursue all you want."
- Jim Rohn

I don't know about you but I am not an 'either/or' type of person. I'm a 'both/and' person.

I want to provide tremendous value to my clients and earn a good living.
I want to workout regularly to be fit and enjoy good food.
I want to travel, have some nice things and be very generous in giving to others.

A few years ago I came up the term 'positive discontent.'

Here's what I mean; it's important and healthy to be grateful for all our blessings while still working to improve our lot in life.


Take care to avoid the two extremes.


A complacent person is far too easily pleased. They have no desire or see no need for personal growth. They are self-satisfied. They resist the uncomfortable. They don't challenge themselves. They coast. 


A malcontent is someone who is constantly disgruntled or dissatisfied. Nothing is ever enough. It's always pushed, push, push for more. A malcontent overlooks what's right. A malcontent misses experiencing joy in life for always wanting something else.

So how can you practice Positive Discontent? I am glad you asked.

Regularly take time to reflect on all the good things you have in life.

When we compare ourselves to others, we either come away with a superiority or inferiority complex. Neither are healthy.

The only comparison you should make is who you are today vs. who you could be. Then pursue closing that gap.

Seek to constantly improve. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Make excellence a personal standard.

The word thrive literally means to grow or develop vigorously. It's not perfection, it's direction.

So no more coasting. The only direction you can coast is downhill.

The Power of Focus: How to Get Better Results in Less Time

"The successful person is the average person, with laser-like focus."
- Bruce Lee

Have you ever noticed that some people get more results by working out for 45 minutes than others do by working out for 90 minutes?

Many people who go to the gym barely do enough to raise their heart rate. Others lift weights so inefficiently it doesn't isolate the intended muscle. Still, others are on their phones for long stretches in between sets.

We live in a world of dabbling, diffusion, and distraction.

If you are interested in achieving excellent results, the simple answer is to use the power of focus. Light diffused is not very powerful. Light focused becomes a laser that can cut through steel.

I encourage 3 strategies: Intention, Intensity and Interval.

1. Intention.

Be clear on what you want to achieve, whether in the next 30 minutes, 30 days or 30 months. Being crystal clear on your intended results is similar to putting the destination in your GPS.

2. Intensity

Once you are clear on the results you want to achieve, it is important to be single-minded as you work toward that goal. Extraordinary results come from extraordinary effort. Eliminate distractions and anything that steers you in the wrong direction. This doesn't mean that you work on your goals 100% of the time, but when you are working on your goals, you give 100% focus.

3. Interval

Think of your periods of focus as intense sprints, not a marathon. Life is to be enjoyed. We burn-out and become less effective when we are always in push, push, push mode. 

Here is the bottom line, if you chase two rabbits, you catch neither. When you have important work to do, no more multi-tasking. Do one thing at a time.

"In the absence of disciplined focus, we are strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivIa."

- Patricia Schell

For more on this important topic, download my short ebook, Power Focus here.

Excellence Is The Next 5 Minutes

It's overwhelming to me to think of being excellent for the rest of my life. And there is nothing I can do now in terms of being excellent yesterday or tomorrow.

But I love the concept that author Tom Peters speaks of, 'excellence is the next 5 minutes.'

That I think I can do. And you can too!

  • Excellence is ... making your bed.

  • Excellence is ... turning off the lights as you leave the hotel room.

  • Excellence is ... not putting plastic bags in the recycling bin.

  • Excellence is ... putting the dishes in the dishwasher.

  • Excellence is ... sending a thank you note.

  • Excellence is ... reading your email out loud before sending it.

  • Excellence is ... thinking before you speak.

  • Excellence is ... giving the other person your focused attention.

  • Excellence is ... attending meetings prepared and engaged.

  • Excellence is ... showing up early.

  • Excellence is ... following up and following through.

  • Excellence is ... leaving an 'over and above' tip for 'over and above' service.

  • Excellence is ... over-preparing for the presentation.

  • Excellence is ... helping a co-worker.

  • Excellence is ... delighting the customer.

  • Excellence is ... over-delivering.

In a world full of carpenters, be a craftsman.